A liberal arts education emphasizes a well-rounded learning experience, with students taking classes in the arts, the biological and physical sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities. Classes within this broad and all-encompassing group emphasize reading, writing, and discussion. Liberal arts may be offered as a major at some universities, but others will have a school devoted to the liberal arts, in which students can select individual majors in areas such as biology, government, or political science.
Unlike majors such as nursing and journalism, liberal arts degrees do not prepare students for specific careers. Rather, they emphasize exploration across broad fields of knowledge. Students can expect to take classes in a broad range of fields, from literature to math and science. Liberal arts courses are designed to teach students how to reason critically and communicate effectively through assignments such as papers and presentations.
The Task Force on General Education at Harvard University sums up the value of a liberal arts degree as follows: “A liberal education gives students the tools to face these challenges in an informed and thoughtful way.” Liberal arts students are creative, driven, and self-motivated individuals, equipped to creatively apply a liberal learning to their profession.
With a liberal arts degree, students can pursue many different professions. Students who pursue subjects within the scope of the liberal arts may go on to become academics, physicians, lawyers, and more. Academics typically teach professionally, and liberal arts degree holders may enjoy teaching others about a particular niche within liberal arts, such as a foreign language or humanities topic. A teaching license is required for all elementary, middle, and high school teachers, along with at least a bachelor’s degree in the subject being taught, though some high schools and universities may require at least a master’s or doctoral degree. There are approximately 4.5 million jobs for teachers in 2008, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and that number will continue to grow as the population and cities grow.
Physicians, another career possibility for liberal arts students, must go through medical school to practice, but a liberal arts undergraduate education is a great pre-med track that can set a solid foundation for students to continue their studies later on. The job outlook is good for physicians, with a 24% growth in employment projected, according to the BLS, thanks to advances in medicine and technology that allows for longer lifespans. In addition, the growing population will need more physicians and health care workers to keep them comfortable and healthy.
Like physicians, prospective lawyers must complete specialized schooling to join the professional field, but an undergraduate degree in liberal arts can help set the foundation for law school. Lawyers work to provide legal counsel and defense to their clients, which can be individuals, businesses, or government agencies. The employment growth for lawyers is expected to be average, according to the BLS.
Overall, liberal arts degree holders cultivate good skills in research and communication, which will allow them to join entry-level positions in a variety of fields upon graduation. In addition, a liberal arts degree is a solid foundation for graduate study.
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